In what will undoubtedly be a memorable first major tie-breaking vote as a Supreme Court Judge, Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote last night to allow Arkansas to begin executing a group of 8 death-row inmates. The decision came after attorneys for the State of Arkansas sought an expedited process to allow for the executions to proceed before their lethal-injection drugs expire at the end of April. Per Bloomberg:
In a series of orders Thursday night, the high court cleared the state to execute Ledell Lee, one of eight convicted murderers that Arkansas has been trying to put to death before one of its lethal-injection drugs expires at the end of the month. Associated Press later reported the execution had been carried out.
“Apparently the reason the state decided to proceed with these eight executions is that the ‘use by’ date of the state’s execution drug is about to expire," Breyer wrote. "That factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random."
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan also voted to block the executions.
Shortly after the 5-4 decision, the Associated Press confirmed that the execution of Ledell Lee had been carried out and he was pronounced dead at 11:56pm. The execution was the state's first in 12 years.
Lee was the first person in a group of what had been eight men Arkansas originally planned to execute in 11 days, the most of any state in as short a period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
For his part, Lee was convicted of brutally beating a woman to death in 1993 with a tire iron according to Reuters...
Lee was convicted and sentenced to death for beating Debra Reese to death with a tire iron in 1993. Reese's relatives were at the Cummins Unit and told media Lee deserved to die for a crime that ripped their lives apart.
Lawyers for Lee, who had spent more than 20 years on death row, had filed numerous motions in various courts ahead of the lethal injection that had put the process on hold.
...seemed like a swell guy.